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Best I Faced: Vic Darchinyan

Best I Faced: Vic Darchinyan

All-action power-puncher Vic Darchinyan talked a big game and more often than not backed it up. He always sought out the biggest challenges, winning a world title at flyweight before unifying at junior bantamweight.

Darchinyan was born in Vanadzor, the third-largest city in Armenia, on January 7, 1976.

“I love my city in Armenia, where I was born,” Darchinyan told The Ring. “It’s a good place, a good city, but a very tough city.”

Darchinyan and his older sister were well-provided for by their father, who had a good job at a factory, and their mother. 

The young Vic was rambunctious and went to a gym at 5 years old to blow off some steam.

“I went to boxing and I was small. They said come back later,” he recalled. “I turned 8 and I started boxing.

“When I was a kid, I was tough. In my mind I couldn’t believe anybody could beat me. When I was 8 years old, I was beating everybody. [When I got older] I wanted to become something like Mike Tyson. I was watching his videos every day.”

The Armenian excelled as an amateur and claimed bronze at the European Championships and Goodwill Games in 1998. He also fought at the 1997 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, losing at the quarterfinal stage to eventual gold medalist Manuel Mantilla. He didn’t fare any better at the 1999 Houston World Championships, where he was defeated by Bulat Zhumadilov, who also ended Darchinyan’s Sydney Olympics campaign in the quarterfinals.

Panamanian boxing stylist Anselmo Moreno (left) would make the ninth defense of his bantamweight title against Darchinyan in 2011. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

“Even in the amateurs, I was very powerful,” he said. “In the amateurs, your opponents can run from you and you lose a fight and you don’t know how. Your opponent isn’t even connecting with punches, and you lose the fight. Amateur is not my style. I wanted to go professional, and I needed more rounds to beat them by knockout.”

With that in mind, at the age of 24, the time was ripe to make the transition. 

“I’d been all over the world fighting, and I like Australia. I find the people friendly,” he explained of his decision to emigrate to Australia after the 2000 Olympics. “I had been there for 10 days and I love Australia, and I decided to stay and train in Australia. I had contacts in Europe [and] America waiting for me if I [turned] professional. I started training in Australia, and if it didn’t work out I could move to America.”

“Amateur is not my style. I wanted to go professional, and I needed more rounds to beat them by knockout.”

“Raging Bull” turned professional with a six-round unanimous decision over fellow debutant Sande Kizito in Sydney in November 2000. After winning his first six fights, Darchinyan stopped Kizito (TKO 7) in a rematch to claim the vacant Australian flyweight title.

Over the next couple of years, Darchinyan remained active and won an IBF regional title and bested former two-time world title challenger Alejandro Montiel (UD 10) to help position himself for a world title shot. 

“I waited a long time for a title shot. I was going for the WBC title (held by Pongsaklek Wonjongkam) in 2002, but somehow I ended up going for the IBF,” he said. “[Irene] Pacheco didn’t want to fight me; I became No. 1 and he still didn’t want to fight me. After I pressed him, the IBF told him, ‘If you don’t fight Darchinyan, you could lose your title.’ He knew I was winning all my fights by knockouts.”

Finally his big chance came when the two factions met in Hollywood, Florida, in December 2004.

“For Pacheco, I was training in 40 degrees, I was running and getting ready,” he said. “I was dreaming; I was sleeping and fighting this fight in my dreams. If I hadn’t been ready, I couldn’t [have beaten] him. The fight was supposed to happen in September and the fight was postponed. I was getting ready for this fight every day for six or seven months. 

“I told him before the fight I was going to knock him out. They laughed at me. He’d never been knocked down. 

“I knew I had to knock him out to win. I was landing very big shots to the head and body and he was taking them. I was winning nearly every round, but I was worried if I didn’t knock him out that they wouldn’t give me the fight. I was doing everything to knock him out, and I did [in Round 11]. After the fight in America, we had a good party; friends and people came to celebrate with me.”

Rounds 1-6:

Rounds 6-11:

The powerful southpaw, who fought out of an unusual crouching position, tallied six successful defenses, five coming inside the distance. He notably stopped Mzukisi Sikali (TKO 8) and Luis Maldonado (TKO 8), and he dominated Glenn Donaire before an accidental head-clash broke the challenger’s jaw and the fight ended in a six-round technical decision.

In the summer of 2007, Darchinayn met a then-unknown Nonito Donaire, who was looking to gain revenge for his brother. 

“Maybe he became good after fighting me, but before fighting me, he was nothing. He was the No. 8 contender,” said Darchinyan, who was stopped in Round 5 by a huge left hook in what was later awarded The Ring’s Knockout and Upset of The Year. “On that day, my first son was supposed to be born. When I was in America for that fight, I didn’t do one round of sparring for that fight. I didn’t train for that fight. I was only losing weight and talking all day with my wife.

“After I lost, I told Nonito, ‘OK, I lost. I will become world champion. Fight me again.’ He didn’t want to fight me.”

While some fighters wouldn’t be the same after a devastating loss, Darchinyan returned up at junior bantamweight and got back in the win column before drawing with Z Gorres in The Philippines in an IBF eliminator.

Next came a fight with IBF junior bantamweight titlist Dmitry Kirillov on Showtime in Tacoma, Washington. The Russian was no match for Darchinyan and was dropped twice and counted out in the fifth round.

Darchinyan was back on top, but instead of settling in as a champion, he sought out WBA/WBC counterpart Cristian Mijares, again on Showtime, in November 2008.

“They told me, ‘You just won the title. Why do you want to fight Mijares?’ I told them, ‘I don’t have too much time. I want to beat all the champions,'” said Darchinyan, whose aggression proved too much in stopping the younger Mexican in nine rounds.  “Mijares was favored; they thought he would outpoint me, but I lost maybe only one round.”

Read “Fearless Darchinyan is Good for the Sport” by Doug Fischer (2009)

Darchinyan then beat up Mexican toughman Jorge Arce for 11 rounds before the doctor called a halt to their fight. At that point, Darchinyan was rated No. 1 at 115 pounds by The Ring and No. 8 in the mythical pound-for-pound ratings.

He didn’t want to stop there and elected to chase more glory up at bantamweight, where he met Joseph Agbeko for the IBF title. The Ghanaian edged the victory with a unanimous decision – by just one point on two scorecards.

Darchinyan dropped back to junior bantamweight, where he made two more successful title defenses before heading back to bantamweight.

He was matched with Abner Mares (SD 12) and lost an ugly contest in December 2010.

“He punched me 20 times to the balls,” said Darchinyan, still clearly rankled by the manner in which Mares fought.

After notching two more wins, Darchinyan was dominated by WBA 118-pound titleholder Anselmo Moreno (UD 12) and then headed to Japan where he gave WBC titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka a tough challenge.

“The Japanese kid was good. I think I won that fight and I was robbed,” he said, pulling no punches. “The first six or seven rounds, it was an even fight. The last three or four rounds, he was running from me and just surviving.

Yamanaka (left) escaped with his title after scoring a unanimous decision victory over Darchinyan in 2012. (Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images)

That wasn’t it for Darchinyan, who won two more fights at junior featherweight before finally securing the rematch with Donaire at featherweight in Corpus Christi, Texas, in November 2013.

“I was bothering him for seven years before I got my chance,” he said. “I’m not saying I was old, but I was 37. I was following him everywhere, telling him, ‘Fight me again, I want a rematch.’ I lost again, but before I lost I was winning every round. 

“Bob Arum came to me and said, ‘What are you doing? You were winning every round.’ And I told him, ‘I lost by knockout [in the first fight], and I wanted to knock him out.’ It was 10 rounds; I didn’t think I had too much time to knock him out and I [rushed] and went for the knockout, and he caught me with the left hook and the fight was stopped. It’s OK. I had a good career. I won many world titles.”

He had two more world title attempts at featherweight, losing to Nicholas Walters (KO 5) and Jesus Cuellar (TKO 8).

“I wanted to knock out that guy,” Darchinyan said of the Walters fight. “I was very upset. At the venue, he was talking big. He was good. He just beat me because I fought the wrong fight. I went for the knockout. If I was patient and boxed, [I would have won], but he was a good opponent.”

He fought a few more times before retiring with a record of (43-9-1, 32 KOs) after a fight with Evgeny Gradovich failed to materialize in 2018.

Darchinyan, now 48, is married, has three children, two with his first wife and one with his current wife. He is currently living in Yereven, Armenia. However, he hopes to move to America and open a boxing gym.

“I have other businesses not in boxing, but I want to get involved,” he said. “I want to train coaches who can train kids. I want to put the mentality inside them that they want to be world champion.”

He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

 

BEST JAB

Christian Mijares: “Mijares had a good jab.”

 

BEST DEFENSE

Nicholas Walters: “Abner Mares protected himself good; I couldn’t land a clean punch. I couldn’t land a good punch against Walters; I think he had the best defense.”

 

BEST FOOTWORK

Anselmo Moreno: “He moved good in the ring; he didn’t let me get too close to him. Donaire had good footwork.”

 

BEST HANDSPEED

Moreno: “He had quick hands.”

 

SMARTEST

Moreno: “He was very smart. He knew I was a big puncher; he just outpointed me.”

 

STRONGEST

Cuellar: “He was very strong. He was much heavier than me – 10, 12 kilograms [more] than me.”

 

BEST CHIN

Cuellar: “I punched him with big punches to the chin and he just took the punch. I couldn’t believe it. He took a very big punch and he held it.”

 

BEST PUNCHER

Cuellar: “He could punch. I think he was a bigger puncher than Donaire. He caught me with a punch in the ninth round in the second fight.”

 

BEST BOXING SKILLS

Moreno: “It is Moreno. I was getting upset because I couldn’t punch him; I was missing. He was the most talented boxer I ever fought.

 

BEST OVERALL

Irene Pacheco: “I was very hungry. I couldn’t believe anybody in the world could beat me. That’s how I beat Irene Pacheco. He is one of the best opponents. I lost fights because I didn’t clear my mind; I didn’t get ready because I just thought I was going to punish them and knock them out. He was the best opponent.”

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk.

The post Best I Faced: Vic Darchinyan appeared first on The Ring.

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